What Happens If You Test Positive On a DOT Drug Test?

If you’re a commercial truck driver that has spent any amount of time on the road, you’re probably aware of the dangers of using drugs and alcohol. Not only does it impair your ability to drive safely, but it can also have a serious impact on your continued employment. To that end, employers in the transportation industry are required to implement a drug and alcohol testing program that adheres to Department of Transportation (DOT) testing regulations. If you test positive on a DOT drug test, it can have significant consequences on your job and career.

Understanding DOT Drug and Alcohol Testing Requirements

As the federal agency responsible for maintaining safety in the transportation industry, the DOT’s regulations are broad and varied. While the agency’s ultimate goal is ensuring the safety and reliability of the country’s transportation system, arguably its most important regulation to that end involves implementing and enforcing a drug and alcohol testing program. These requirements are in place for all “safety-sensitive” employees, including truck drivers, and must include the following to be compliant:

  • Pre-Employment Testing – Before a safety-sensitive employee begins work, they must undergo drug and alcohol testing. A negative test result is required before the employee can be hired.
  • Random Testing – Safety-sensitive employees must undergo random drug and alcohol testing throughout their employment. The frequency of testing is determined by the DOT, and employees cannot refuse to participate in testing.
  • Post-Accident Testing – If a safety-sensitive employee is involved in an accident, they must undergo drug and alcohol testing. The testing must be conducted within a specified time frame after the accident.
  • Reasonable Suspicion Testing – If a supervisor has reason to believe that an employee is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they can request that the employee undergo testing.
  • Return-to-Duty Testing – If an employee tests positive for drugs or alcohol, they must undergo return-to-duty testing before returning to safety-sensitive duties.
  • Follow-Up Testing – Employees who have tested positive for drugs or alcohol must undergo follow-up testing. The frequency and duration of follow-up testing is determined by a substance abuse professional.
  • Clearinghouse Reporting – All DOT drug and alcohol testing results must be reported to the DOT Drug and Alcohol Clearinghouse. This database is used to track safety-sensitive employees’ testing history and to ensure compliance with DOT regulations.


Not only does the DOT require testing, but it also lays out the proper procedure for administering these tests. In order to be considered proper, the drug or alcohol test must involve the following steps:

  • The employee is notified by the employer that they have been selected for drug testing.
  • The employee proceeds to a collection site to provide a urine sample, which is collected by a trained collector.
  • The collector verifies the employee’s identification and checks the temperature of the urine sample to ensure its integrity.
  • The urine sample is split into two containers, labeled as the primary specimen and the split specimen.
  • The primary specimen is sent to a certified laboratory for analysis, while the split specimen is stored in case the employee requests a retest.
  • The laboratory tests the urine sample for a variety of substances, including marijuana, cocaine, opioids, and amphetamines.
  • If the laboratory identifies a positive result, the Medical Review Officer (MRO) reviews the test results and interviews the employee to determine if there is a legitimate medical explanation for the positive result.|
  • The MRO informs the employer of the test result, and the employer takes appropriate action based on DOT regulations.
  • If the employee disputes the test result, they may request that the split specimen be sent for testing at a different laboratory.
  • The entire process is tightly controlled and regulated to ensure accuracy, fairness, and consistency in the testing results.

Overall, the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing requirements are designed to ensure that safety-sensitive employees are not under the influence of drugs or alcohol while performing their duties. These requirements help to promote safety and reduce the risk of accidents in the transportation industry.

What Happens If You Test Positive on a DOT Drug Test?

Generally speaking, testing positive during a DOT drug test can have quite a negative impact on you as a truck driver. At the very least, you’ll have to take time off from work, costing you money and putting a financial strain on you and your family. But more than that, a positive test result can hurt your reputation as a safe driver, which extends to harming the reputation of your employer. While it’s certainly a difficult proposition, understanding the consequences of a positive drug test result can sometimes be a helpful deterrent for you and other drivers. Here is a look at what happens if you test positive on a DOT drug test:

  • Removal from safety-sensitive duties – If you are a safety-sensitive employee, such as a truck driver, you may be immediately removed from your duties and prohibited from performing safety-sensitive functions until you have completed the return-to-duty process.
  • Required evaluation – You will be required to undergo an evaluation with a substance abuse professional (SAP), who will assess your drug use and make recommendations for treatment or education.
  • Return-to-Duty testing – Before you can return to safety-sensitive duties, you must undergo a return-to-duty drug test and receive a negative result. You may be subject to follow-up testing for up to five years after your return to duty.
  • Disciplinary action – While DOT regulations require certain actions before you can resume your job duties, your employer likely has policies that allow disciplinary action if you test positive for drugs or alcohol. Usually, this includes suspension or even termination of employment.
  • Loss of operating authority – For your employer, they may face fines and loss of operating authority if you fail to comply with DOT drug and alcohol testing regulations.

Obviously, failing a drug test can have severe implications for both you and your employer. In the short term, you’ll likely have at least a suspension of your CDL and a loss of income and benefits. Long term, you’ll face a negative impact on your career and reputation, and possible legal consequences if your drug use results in an accident or injury. Thus, it’s important to remain aware of these requirements and avoid any behavior that could result in a failed test.

DOT-Compliant Drug Testing Solutions

At Fleet Drug Testing, our team of experienced professionals has the knowledge and solutions your company needs to stay compliant and up-to-date on the DOT’s drug and alcohol testing requirements. We can handle the process from start to finish, allowing you to focus on your business and keeping your drivers and others on the road safe. If you’re looking for a full-service drug testing solution, contact us today to get started.

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